June 03, 2019

THE SHAH OF POLLS

AMIT SHAH'S ROLE IN BJP'S HISTORIC WIN

Amit Shah - Courtesy: India Today
The dust on the electoral battle field has settled and the incumbent PM Narendra Modi and his BJP has stormed to another term in power, this time with a much stronger mandate. The saffron party on its own won 303 seats while the NDA finished with a spectacular tally of 353 inching very close to a two-thirds majority in the Lower House of the Parliament. Though PM's popularity with the masses and the lack of a strong Opposition are cited as primary reasons for the BJP's solid showing at the hustings, it is easy to over look the role of the party President - Amit Shah under whose leadership, the saffron outfit has been transformed into a well oiled election machine that barring a few setbacks, has won most state polls in India over the last five years.

Considering that PM Modi has not been able to deliver on many of the promises he made during the run up to the 2014 polls, BJP was expected to drop seats, especially in the Hindi heartland where it had lost three crucial states in November last year. Agrarian distress and unemployment were believed to only make the matter worse for the ruling dispensation. Though the Balakot air strikes managed to turn the tide significantly in favor of the BJP, Shah's deft handling of alliances in crucial states, his efforts in strengthening the party organization apart from the his conscious efforts to expand the BJP's footprints in the East and North-East seem to have paid handsome dividends in form of massive gains throughout the country, barring deep South.

Strengthening the Party: Early in his tenure as the national president, buoyed by Modi's soaring popularity, Shah began a membership drive where people could join the saffron ranks by simply giving a missed call. Leaders right from the Panchayat to the national level were given targets and their performance was monitored. Within months, the BJP with a membership of over 10 crores became the largest political party in the world. Next, as four states went to polls, in the later half of 2014, the former Gujarat Home Minister began replicating his 2014 UP success story across the nation. Panna Pramukhs, responsible for about 8-10 families that figured on a single page of electoral rolls in a constituency, were appointed throughout the country. Key strategists from the RSS like Ram Madhav were roped into the party. In the run up to the national elections, programs like 'Mera Booth, Sabse Majbhoot' were launched to boost morale of party workers. Over the span of five years, Shah's many moves at strengthening the party, like those mentioned above, paid rich dividends as the enthused party cadre tapped in Modi's popularity to win a landslide victory.

Stitching Key Alliances: Once the pioneer of coalition politics in India, it was said that Modi's autocratic way of functioning was pushing key allies away from the BJP. Months before the polls, Shah began getting disgruntled NDA partners on board. Shiv Sena which had been the most trenchant opponent of the BJP and the PM in the last term was convinced to remain within the NDA in spite of the party supremo Uddhav Thackeray's earlier announcement of going to the hustings all alone. Nitish Kumar led JD-U was allocated 17 seats with the BJP even giving away seats that they had won in 2014 as a part of the seat sharing arrangement in Bihar. In Assam, the AGP which had left the NDA protesting over the Citizenship Bill too was convinced to back the saffron outfit for the national polls. In the south, the BJP put up an impressive front including the ruling AIADMK, Ramdos led PMK, actor turned politician Vijaykant led DMDK and so on.

As the results started trickling in on 23rd May, Shah's effort seem to have bore fruits. Though the DMK led front swept Tamil Nadu, in other places it was the NDA that trounced the UPA. JD-U won all but one of the 17 seats it contested as the NDA won 39 of the 40 seats in Bihar. Shiv Sena won 18 of the 23 seats it contested in Maharashtra with the NDA ending with a solid tally of 41 in Maharashtra. In Assam, the NDA once again proved its might bagging 9 of the 14 seats in the state.

Expanding party's footprints: Perhaps, Amit Shah's biggest achievement as the BJP national president has been his ability to expand the party's foot prints in hitherto unknown lands. Till 2014, the saffron outfit was considered as party with its base in the Hindi heartland and western India. Under Shah though, the party has made significant in roads into states like Odisha, Bengal and the North-East.

The BJP first emerged as the real challenger to Naveen Patnaik in the 2017 Panchayat polls when it stood second to the BJD. In the national polls, the party won 8 seats, an improvement of 7 over its performance in the last Lok Sabha elections. In Telangana, the saffron outfit shocked CM KCR and his TRS by winning 4 seats. This is an accomplishment considering that the pink party had swept the state polls held earlier this year. In the North East, the BJP and its partners in the NEDA won 18 of the 25 parliamentary seats. This region, till sometime back had minimal BJP presence and was see as a Congress bastion. But the story of 2019 polls was Bengal where the saffron outfit did the unthinkable, winning 18 seats and emerging as the biggest threat to CM Mamta Bannerjee's TMC.

Shah's hard work and perseverance seem to have caught the eye of the PM too. Shah has been inducted in the cabinet and is now seen as the new No 2 in the pecking order. The Chanakya who is credited for transforming the fortunes of the party is now the country's Home Minister. Can he now transform the fortunes of the country. Only time will tell.